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Election of 1912

In 1912, former president Theodore Roosevelt sought the Republican nomination at the convention in Chicago. He was infuriated by what he took to be betrayal of his progressive program by his personally chosen successor, the incumbent William Howard Taft.

The delegates chose Taft and former New York congressman James "Sunny Jim" Sherman as his running mate. Roosevelt and his supporters bolted, then formed the Progressive Party, popularly known as the Bull Moose Party. TR`s running mate was California governor Hiram Johnson.

The Democrats were elated by the Republican split, realizing that their opponents` 16-year rule was at an end. The only real suspense was generated around the question of which Democrat would be the next president. Favorite son candidates were put forth from all sections of the country. The strongest appeared to be House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri, the personal favorite of the influential William Randolph Hearst. Despite widespread support, Clark was unable to gain the necessary two-thirds vote in the early balloting. The turning point occurred when the still influential William Jennings Bryan switched his support to New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson, an advocate of moderate reform. After 46 ballots, the exhausted delegates finally selected Wilson and Indiana governor Thomas R. Marshall as his running mate.

For the fourth time, Eugene V. Debs became the presidential standard-bearer for the Socialist Party at their 1912 convention in Indianapolis.

Prohibition Party candidate Eugene W. Chafin won his party`s 1912 nomination at Atlantic City; it would be his second and final run.

The election was an important and pithy discussion about the country`s future. During the campaign, Roosevelt and Wilson commanded the lion`s share of public attention. They presented the electorate with differing versions of progressivism. Roosevelt`s New Nationalism called for an interventionist government with robust regulatory powers. Wilson`s New Freedom advocated antimonopoly policies and a return to small businesses.

Wilson won a lopsided electoral victory in November 1912. His election was nearly assured from the beginning because of the Republican split. The votes for Taft and Roosevelt combined indicate the G.O.P. would have won the presidency. All told, the votes cast for Wilson, Roosevelt and Debs reflected the people`s leanings toward progressive reform.

Party Electoral
T. Woodrow Wilson (NJ)
Thomas R. Marshall (IN)
Democratic 435 6,293,152
Theodore Roosevelt (NY)
Hiram W. Johnson (CA)
Progressive 88 4,119,207
William H. Taft (OH)
James S. Sherman (NY)
Nicholas M. Butler (NY)
Republican 8 3,486,333
Eugene V. Debs (IN)
Emil Seidel (WI)
Socialist 0 900,369
Eugene W. Chafin (IL)
Aaron S. Watkins (OH)
Prohibition 0 207,972